EGOT winning actor James Earl Jones, famous for being the voice of Darth Vader, celebrates his 92nd birthday today.

Jones was born January 17, 1931 in Arkabutla, Mississippi, USA. He’s won Golden Globes, Emmys, Tony Awards, Grammies, and a Screen Actors Guild award. He’s been nominated for thirteen major awards over his seventy year career, and won eight of them.

Sci-fi / Fantasy / Horror Roles

Jones was already a respected Shakespearean actor when he was cast as the voice of Darth Vader in the Star Wars franchise. David Prowse played Vader’s body. Jones played the villainous Thulsa Doom in Conan the Barbarian (1982), In Disney’s The Lion King, (2019) he voiced Mufasa, Simba’s father. Jones played Lt. Lothar Zogg in Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). He voiced the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk (2009). He voiced the admiral in Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey (2010).

Voice cloning technology has advanced to the point where Jones no longer actually has to go to the studio to record lines for new media in any form. Jones is obviously entitled to retire from the character, but Vader isn’t dead as a character because of that. Instead, Jones has licensed his voice for use in voice synthesis for these productions using the Respeecher audio processing application. The first example of these we’ve seen in the wild has been in the Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Broadway Roles

Jones was invited to perform at the White House in 2oo9. To hear him recite from Shakespeare’s Othello, turn down your SciFi.Radio feed and click on the link below. He played Othello both on and off Broadway. Other Broadway plays included The Great White Hope, King Lear, The Iceman Cometh, Of Mice and Men, On Golden Pond, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, The Best Man, and Driving Miss Daisy. He as nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor for starring in Fences, The Great White Hope, and On Golden Pond, He won Tonys for The Great White Hope and Fences. In 2017, Jones was granted a Special Tony Award: Lifetime Achievement Award.

Movie and Television Roles

  • In Coming 2 America (2021) Jones played King Jaffe Joffer.
  • He starred as CaptainWoodrow Paris in the late ’70s police show Paris.
  • In the short-lived but fun 2015 show Agent X, Jones played the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
  • In Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night (1987) Jones voiced the emperor of the night.
  • Jones played the first Black president in The Man (1972), screenplay by Twilight Zone‘s Rod Serling, decades before Barack Obama was elected.

He earned an Emmy nomination for Under One Roof. He has been nominated for eight Primetime Emmy Awards and two Daytime Emmy Awards. o/f those ten Emmy nominations, he won two Primetime Emmies for Gabriel’s Fire and Heat Wave, ad one Daytime Emmy for the poignant Summer’s End. He was nominated for an Oscar and two Golden Globes for playing Jack Jefferson in The Great White Hope (1970). He had earlier won a Tony for playing the same role on Broadway. He won the Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer, but not for Best Actor. His other movies include Claudine (1974), Coming to America (1988), The Hunt for Red October1990), and Cry, the Beloved Country (1995). He was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor for Matewan (1987). Jones received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 2009.

Personal Life

First Lady Barbara Bush, James Earl jones, Pres. Feorge Bush, July 22, 1992, {photo credit George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum}

When he was young, Jones suffered badly from a severe stuttering problem. He practiced reciting poetry and dramatic monologues to attempt to control the stuttering. He studied at the University of Michigan, first as a pre-med student until he realized his skills and interests were better suited to drama and changed majors. He joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps and did very well in it. He graduated from the University of Michigan School of Theatre, Music, and Dance in 1955.

Jones served in the U. S. Army, proudly wearing his country’s uniform. As a newly commissioned lieutenant, he expected to be sent to Korea. Instead he went to Fort Benning for Ranger training. No wonder Darth Vader was so tough: James Earl Jones was an Army Ranger. His first professional performances were at the Ramsdell Teater in Manistee, Michigan. After he completed his tour of duty in the army, he went to New York, where he studied his craft at the American Theatre Wing. Until he was able to pay the bills as an actor, he worked as a janitor to support himself. he made his Broadway debut understudying Lloyd Richards in The Egghead. His first movie role was in Dr. Strangelove. He appeared in test films for PBS’ Sesame Street and was an occasional celebrity guest on Sesame Street.

President George Bush presented Jones with the National Medal of the Arts in 1992. In 2009 Jones was presented with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. Harvard University granted him an honorary doctorate in 2017. He was named a Disney Legend by the Walt Disney Company in 2022 at the D23 Expo.

Susan Macdonald
Susan Macdonald

Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions,  Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.